Business Writing Quick Tips: paragraphs


Business English Quick Tips

Quick tips to help you write better for business

If you need to write for your job or business in English, these quick tips will help you succeed…


When you were at school / university you will have been told that a paragraph is a collection of sentences about one sole topic. Judging by the way my son (a business management / economics undergraduate) has been told about writing essays, provided you’re still going on about the same topic you keep to one paragraph even if it’s a good few hundred words long.

Well, that may be OK for academic writing but in business – and especially online – long paragraphs are killers to read. After the first two or three sentences you begin to feel mesmerized and the longer you go on reading without the relief of a little white space, the more your concentration fades and you find yourself losing the point altogether.

There is a trend currently for some text – particularly online text – to go too far in the other direction, with a new paragraph for almost every sentence. This certainly sets out an argument quite clearly, but personally unless it’s pure advertising copy I find it rather irritating and almost rude in a way, because it implies that the reader needs plenty of time to absorb each sentence worth of precious information before being capable of moving on to the next one.

What’s the optimum paragraph length?

Not surprisingly, a common-sense compromise – not too long, and not too short. For online text, I would say no more than 3 to 4 sentences per paragraph, and for print (short documents, brochures, etc.) maybe up to six sentences. If you’re writing a book you can get away with longer paragraphs but bear in mind that many people read books electronically, and regardless of how wonderful the screen quality is of whatever eReader is being used it’s still a bit harder on the eye than paper.

Obviously your paragraphs must focus on one main thought, and as with sentences one paragraph should lead logically into the next. Many writers keep readers “hooked” by creating a new paragraph just when the action is becoming intense, and as long as that makes sense in factual terms that’s quite a good trick. Using link words like “however,” “all the same,” “but” (yes, that is tolerated now even by the grammar police!) “alternatively,” etc. is a good idea to keep readers flowing through.

Now: for something a bit different, try the exercises associated with this article in my “30 Day Business Writing Challenge” – Click here

More next week … and if you have any questions about business writing in English please add them here in the comments section; I will try to answer them as well as I can!